NHL On Tap: Ovechkin, Zibanejad face off when Capitals play Rangers

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Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the eight games Thursday.

Zibanejad vs. Ovechkin rematch

When the New York Rangers play the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, MSG, NBCSWA, NHL.TV), it will be the first time the teams have played since their thriller from March 5 of last season. Mika Zibanejad scored five goals for the Rangers, including one in overtime, and Alex Ovechkin scored two; the forwards alternated scoring the final five goals of the game in a 6-5 win for New York. Zibanejad led the NHL with an average of 0.72 goals per game last season, but has scored two points (one goal, one assist) in nine games. He could bounce back for the Rangers in the rematch against the Capitals. Ovechkin, who was second in goals per game (0.71) last season, missed four of Washington’s first 10 games because of NHL COVID-19 protocol but has scored seven points (two goals, five assists) in six games. — Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor

Canucks, Maple Leafs play for first time in North

The only teams in the Scotia North Division the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t played yet? Each other. It’s why their first game of the season, at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; TSN4, SNP, NHL.TV), is so intriguing. Which version of the talented Canucks will be on display? The high-flying one that arrived in Montreal on Monday on a four-game winning streak? Or the team that lost two straight to the Canadiens by a combined score of 11-5? The Maple Leafs have not played since Saturday, so they should be well-rested. There will be plenty of top talent on the ice most of the game, topped by Toronto forwards Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and John Tavares, and Vancouver forwards Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat. The Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly and the Canucks’ Quinn Hughes are two of the best puck-moving defensemen in the NHL. Normally these teams play each other twice a season; now they’ll play three times in five days. — Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Predators forwards look to start scoring

The Nashville Predators are hoping forwards Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene each will break out with a greater offensive impact when they play the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-TN, NHL.TV). Johansen and Duchene each has yet to score a goal in nine games. Each player has been able to drive offense despite the lack of goal production; the Predators control 57.7 percent of all 5-on-5 shot attempts with Johansen on the ice and 55.3 percent with Duchene on the ice. Coach John Hynes said he’ll continue to work with each player and attempt to put them in the best possible position to succeed. There’s no better time for that to happen than against the Panthers. The Predators conclude their four-game road trip through Florida with games against the Panthers on Thursday and Friday after consecutive losses against the Tampa Bay Lightning to start the trip. — Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

Thursday schedule

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET (NHLN, MSG, NBCSWA, NHL.TV)

The Rangers are 2-0-1 since losing four in a row (0-3-1) and look for consecutive wins for the first time this season. The Capitals allowed four goals in the third period of a 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday, their first regulation defeat this season.

Nashville Predators at Florida Panthers, 7 p.m. ET (FS-F, FS-TN, NHL.TV)

The Panthers have started 5-0-1 helped by a power play that’s fourth in the NHL at 36.8 percent, and a penalty kill that is 9-for-10 in its past three games. The Predators are 28th in the NHL at 2.33 goals per game, and averaging 1.86 in their past seven (2-5-0).

Dallas Stars at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN+, SNE, SNO, FS-O, FS-SW, NHL.TV)

Patrik Laine plays his second game for the Blue Jackets after the forward was a minus-2 with two shots on goal in a 6-3 loss to the Stars on Tuesday. Forward Joe Pavelski leads Dallas in goals (seven) and points (14) in seven games and is averaging 2.00 points per game, tied with Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (24 points in 12 games) for first in the NHL (minimum five games).

Ottawa Senators at Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m. ET (TSN2, RDS, TSN5, NHL.TV)

The Senators hope to end an 0-8-1 skid in the finale of a seven-game road trip where they’ve been outscored 38-14 in seven consecutive regulation losses. The Senators allow an NHL-worst 4.80 goals per game; the Canadiens average an NHL-best 4.40 goals per game and have scored at least five goals in six of their 10 games.

Vancouver Canucks at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET (TSN4, SNP, NHL.TV)

The Maple Leafs took seven of a possible eight points during a four-game road trip (3-0-1) that ended with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. The Canucks have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. 

Carolina Hurricanes at Chicago Blackhawks, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSCH, FS-CR, NHL.TV)

The Hurricanes go for their sixth consecutive victory. The Blackhawks have points in seven of their past eight games (3-1-4) after an 0-3-0 start, led by strong play from goalie Kevin Lankinen, who has a 2.09 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage in seven games, and forward Patrick Kane, who has scored 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 11 games.

Arizona Coyotes at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m. ET (FS-MW, FS-A, NHL.TV)

The Coyotes are playing without forwards Christian Fischer (upper-body injury) and Lawson Crouse (upper-body injury), and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (lower-body injury). The Blues have won four straight games.

Calgary Flames at Winnipeg Jets, 8 p.m. ET (TSN3, SNW, NHL.TV)

Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau has scored 11 points (six goals, five assists) during a season-opening nine-game point streak, two behind Bob MacMillan’s Flames record of 11 for Atlanta to begin the 1978-79 season, and is one assist from 300 in the NHL. The Jets are 2-2-1 after starting the season 4-1-0.

Buffalo Sabres at New York Islanders – postponed

New Jersey Devils at Pittsburgh Penguins – postponed

Minnesota Wild at Colorado Avalanche – postponed

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